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Monk Fruit vs Stevia

Monk fruit and stevia are both popular sugar alternatives that are commonly used to sweeten food and drinks. You may have come across them in the ingredients list of low sugar options in the supermarket. But what is the difference between monk fruit vs stevia? And should we be choosing one over the other? Let’s find out.

Key Takeaways

  • Monk fruit and stevia can be used to sweeten foods and beverages without adding any calories, carbohydrates or sugars. This makes them a good option for people managing their blood sugar or aiming to lose weight
  • Both monk fruit and stevia are more expensive and less readily available than sugar and other artificial sweeteners and a small number of people may experience side effects or allergies with stevia
  • These sweeteners are often used in greens powders to balance the taste and reduce the bitterness of the greens

Monk Fruit

Monk fruit, also known as swingle or luo han guo, is a small green fruit from the gourd family that grows on vines. Native to Southeast Asia, monk fruit was first cultivated by Buddhist monks in the 13th century, hence its name.

Fresh monk fruit spoils quickly and so it is usually used in its dried form, and commonly used to make medicinal teas.

Today, monk fruit extract is used as a natural sweetener in food products and drinks.

The extract contains substances called mogrosides which contain zero calories and are 150 – 200 times sweeter than table sugar. Manufacturers often mix monk fruit extract with other sugars to balance this sweetness. 

Monk Fruit

Pros Of Monk Fruit

There are various benefits to using monk fruit as a sweetener.

These include: 

No Impact On Blood Sugar Levels

There is no sugar in monk fruit extract, which means that consuming pure monk fruit sweeteners will not affect blood sugar levels in the way that table sugar does.

This makes monk fruit a good option for people with diabetes who must carefully monitor their blood sugar levels.

Some research in animals suggests that mogrosides may even play a role in controlling blood sugar levels. (Source)

No Calories Or Carbohydrates

Monkfruit extract does not contain any calories or carbohydrates, making it a useful alternative for those who are aiming to lose weight and people on low-carbohydrate diets. 

No Negative Side Effects

Unlike some artificial sweeteners, there is currently no evidence to show that monk fruit has any negative side effects. 

The FDA considers monk fruit sweeteners as “generally recognized as safe”. (Source)

Antioxidant Effects

There have been test tube studies showing monk fruit mogrosides having antioxidant effects by playing a role in reducing oxidative stress. (Source)

However, further research is still needed to understand whether these effects occur in humans.

Also, it has to be considered whether eating the processed sweetener as part of a food product would have the same benefits, but some research suggests it might. (Source)

Cons Of Monk Fruit

Some reasons people may not want to opt for monk fruit as a sweetener.

These include:

Availability And Cost

Monk fruit is difficult to grow and expensive to export. This makes it harder to come by than other sweeteners, and often more expensive.

Taste

Some people find the taste of monk fruit sweeteners unpleasant as it does differ in table to regular table sugar. 

Monk fruit sweeteners can also leave an aftertaste.

Additional Ingredients

Some manufacturers balance the taste of monk fruit by mixing it with other sugars, such as maltodextrin or dextrose. This may alter the sweetener’s nutritional profile making it undesirable and even unsafe for some people.

Stevia Powder

Stevia

Stevia sweetener is derived from the leaves of the stevia plant, a herb native to some parts of South America. 

The leaves of the stevia plant contain substances known as steviol glycosides, which are 200–400 times sweeter than table sugar. Even sweeter than the monk fruit mogrosides!

The whole leaves and crude extracts of the stevia plant have been used as a sweetener for centuries. Despite this, the use of raw stevia is not approved for use by the FDA due to a lack of toxicological information. (Source)

So how do we have stevia sweeteners then?

Well, in the U.S. stevia sweeteners consist of highly purified extracts of the steviol glycosides, rather than the raw plant. These high-purity extracts of steviol glycosides are ‘generally regarded as safe’ by the FDA.

Pros Of Stevia

Many of the benefits of stevia are similar to those of monk fruit: 

  • No impact on blood sugar levels
  • No calories or carbohydrates
  • Availability

Though less widely available than sugar and some other artificial sweeteners, stevia is easier to come by than monk fruit sweetener. 

Cons Of Stevia

Cost

As with monk fruit sweeteners, stevia is generally more expensive than sugar and other sweeteners. 

Taste

Similarly to monk fruit, some people do not like the taste of stevia as it is very distinct from table sugar.  

Other Ingredients

Again, stevia is often mixed with other sweeteners to balance its taste which can alter the nutritional profile making it unappealing or unsafe for some people. 

Stevia is also heavily refined due to FDA permissions only allowing the use of highly purified stevia products in the U.S.

Side Effects

Some people do report unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms after consuming stevia products. This is due to sugar alcohols which are sometimes added to stevia products.

Although hypersensitivity to sugar alcohol is rare, symptoms can include: nausea, vomiting, indigestion, cramping, and bloating. 

Allergy

There have been some reported cases of stevia allergy, although very few. 

Both the FDA and European Commission conclude that the number of individuals who are hypersensitive to stevia or at a risk of having an allergic response is low.

People with allergies to other plants in the Asteraceae family, such as daisies, chrysanthemums, or marigold, should avoid stevia.

Monk Fruit And Stevia In Greens Powders

One place you’re likely to see monk fruit or stevia is in a greens powder.

Greens are certainly not sweet, and their bitterness is undoubtedly a contributor to why some people struggle to enjoy them.

By adding monk fruit or stevia to a greens powder, manufacturers can counteract the natural bitterness without adding any sugar, carbohydrates or calories.

Most brands opt for stevia, probably because it is a bit more readily available, but some include monk fruit, and some go for a combination of the two.

Stevia is used in Human Tonik’s Supergreen Tonik

The Supergreen Tonik provides 7.5 grams of organic greens per serving. Due to the large amount of greens packed into this powder, a sweetener is needed to balance the taste. Using stevia makes Supergreen Tonik tastier, without adding any additional calories, carbs, or sugar.

Holding supergreen tonik

Takeaway

Monk fruit and stevia are commonly used sugar alternatives. 

Both derived from plants, these extracts sweeten foods and beverages without adding calories, carbohydrates, or sugar. 

Overall, monk fruit and stevia have very similar properties. For most people, the choice between them simply comes down to personal preference.

If you’re considering which one to go for, why not try both and see which you prefer.

Other considerations that may impact your choice include:

  • Cost
  • Availability
  • Added ingredients, such as other sugars or sweeteners
  • Potential side effects
  • Potential allergies

Individuals who experience allergies to plants such as daisies, chrysanthemums and marigolds, should avoid stevia, and those who suffer from gastrointestinal side effects when using stevia products may prefer monk fruit sweeteners.

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